Heart Defibrillation with Less Pain

Cardiac defibrillation device reduces electricity and pain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Scientists have found a way to end life-threatening heart arrhythmia without damaging tissue and with less pain. The condition was usually treated with defibrillation, a treatment that not only damages heart tissue but causes significant pain. The new method would cut the energy used by defibrillation by 84 percent. 

"If you have atrial fibrillation, ensure your cardiologist is aware of the LEAP device."

Robert Gilmour, study co-author and a professor of physiology at Cornell University, said a traditional defibrillator stimulates all of the heart's cells at the same time. For a brief period there is no transmission of electrical signals, then the heart resumes regular beating.

In the new system, called LEAP (low-energy anti-fibrillation pacing), a cardiac catheter is used to create five weak electrical signals in the heart. Seconds later, the heart returns to a normal rhythm. The method is similar to the traditional defibrillation process, but the new technology stimulates different processes in the heart.

Physicists and scientists from Germany, France and New York collaborated on the finding. The device was designed to treat patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia. It affects about 1 percent of the population. Defibrillation works by correcting an irregular heart beat.

The new technology stops the problematic electrical activity in the heart one step at a time. Blood vessels help to synchronize electrical waves so that the problematic heart rhythm is gradually reprogrammed and a normal heart beat is restored.

Researchers are working to ensure that patients can begin receiving the treatment as soon as possible, though no concrete date has been announced.

The research was published in journal Nature.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 15, 2011
Last Updated:
July 21, 2011